06 August 2013, News Wires – Polish prosecutors have reportedly charged four government employees and three businessmen over an alleged bribery scheme to help companies win licences to explore for shale gas.
The prosecutor’s office in Warsaw said it charged three Environment Ministry officials and one from the State Geological Institute with accepting bribes ranging from around $4100 to around $17,340 for helping companies win shale gas concessions, Reuters reported.
The prosecutors, who did not name any of the individuals or companies involved, also said they charged three businessmen working in the exploration sector.
The Environment Ministry was not immediately available for comment on the prosecutions, the wire service said.
The charges could prove another headache for the government which has seen a number of foreign players withdraw from or reduce their shale gas portfolio in Poland since mid-2012, including Talisman Energy, Marathon Oil and ExxonMobil.
Difficult geology and regulatory hurdles were cited for the departures along with broader investment priorities.
Poland has handed out more than 100 exploration licences in hopes of becoming a major producer of shale gas in Europe and reducing its reliance on domestic coal and gas from Russia.
But the fewer than 50 test wells drilled so far have suggested much more difficult exploration conditions than officials and companies had hoped.
Poland chopped its recoverable shale gas reserves to an estimate of between 346 billion and 768 billion cubic metres last year, well below an earlier estimate of 5.3 trillion by the US Energy Information Administration.
Explorers active in the play remain confident that Polish shale production will become a reality in the near term, with further test wells expected to yield more promising results later this year.